French Fragrance Brands That Deliver that Classic Je Ne Sais Quoi

Channel your inner Brigitte Bardot.

antique perfume bottles
(Image credit: Getty)

Believe it of not, perfume has been around for centuries. Archaeologists and antiquity experts have even found traces of perfume from ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, which tells us yet again that as much as human behavior changes, in many ways, it stays the same. Over the centuries, cultures all over the world have pioneered their own quintessential fragrances, from the long-lasting ouds of the Arab world to the sweet citrusy frankincense of North and Western Africa. Yet another hotspot of classic perfumery is France, which has become well-known for its luxurious fragrances—particularly florals like rose, lavender, and jasmine, which are often harvested in Grasse, a town north of Cannes that's sometimes referred to as the perfume capital of the world.

But when we're talking about French perfume, which brands do we mean exactly? Which are the heritage brands that have been revered for decades, and which are the newer brands to know that are pushing the boundaries of traditional perfumery? Below, a list of ten essential French perfume brands to keep on your radar.


Heritage fashion house Hermès has long been beloved by fashion aficionados, having opened in 1837 in Paris with the purpose of creating simple, timeless styles. The brand has produced countless legendary haute couture and ready-to-wear styles, along with accessories and jewelry, and made its first foray into fragrance in 1951. This first perfume, called Eau d'Hermès was meant to conjure the image of "the inside of a Hermès bag in which the aroma of a perfume lingers." Since then, the brand has developed more popular fragrances, each of smells luxurious.


Chanel is another iconic Parisian brand that started out focusing on fashion before exploring the world of fragrance. They've released a number of popular scents, many of which I've dissected in my list of the best Chanel perfumes of all time, and, based on their history, they're bound to come out with more hits as the years go on.


Heritage fashion house Dior saw its inception in Paris in 1946, and began exploring fragrances a year later with the release of the Miss Dior women's perfume. The brand has since become hugely popular in both the fashion and beauty spaces, having expanded to both men's and women's fragrances. They've also partnered with some of the most popular celebrities of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Sharon Stone, Jennifer Lawrence, Rihanna, and more.

MEMO Paris

MEMO Paris is one of my new favorite fragrance brands. Each of their scents is meant to evoke a certain exotic location, tapping into the magic and inspiration of global travel. For each perfume, the brand partners with a visual artist and an author to create illustrated books and unique branding based on each locale and fragrance profile.

Parfums de Marly

While Parfums de Marly is a relatively new brand, having only been founded in 2009, its fragrances draw from history and the art of the 17th and 18th centuries. In particular, this luxury brand's fragrances take inspiration from the art and regal culture of Versailles—something reflected in both the perfumes' premium ingredients and in the inttricate glasswork of their bottles.

Henry Jacques

Henry Jacques was founded by Henry Cremona and his wife, Yvette, who made a commitment to found a perfume brand whose scents tapped into "the beauty of life." The brand is now headed by their daughter, Anne-Lise Cremona, who continues to hold up the parfumerie's legacy of creating potent, bespoke fragrances from raw, natural ingredients.

Ex Nihilo

Another relatively new brand that's taken the fragrance world by storm, Ex Nihilo (which means "out of nothing" in Latin) was founded by three young entrepreneurs in Paris who sought an alternative to mass-produced luxury products. Instead, they wanted to create a brand with "its own conception of personalized luxury" that utilized raw materials to make scents you can't find anywhere else.


Beloved by celebrities like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Meghan Markle, and more, Diptyque is an incredibly popular French brand. They carry everything from home fragrance (their candles, in particular, are all the rage) to hair and body mist to scented lotion. I personally love how potent their eau de parfums and body mists are, and their bottles always look so gorgeous on my vanity.

Frederic Malle

Frédéric Malle was born into a line of perfume aficionados: His grandfather founded Parfums Christian Dior, and his mother spent the majority of her career running the department as well. Malle himself then went on to work in perfumery for over 25 years before founding his own brand, which is focused on harvesting raw materials to create unique scents that are balanced yet entirely one of a kind.

Yves Saint Laurent

Finally, we have heritage fashion and beauty powerhouse Yves Saint Laurent. The brand was founded in 1961 and started creating fragrances only three years later, beginning with the "lush, heavy, and languid" fragrance Y. Since then, the brand has created 250 perfumes and has become a significant player in the world of fragrance.

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at